Having not played each other for many years while Sunderland were in the top flight and Boro in the Championship, the two have renewed hostilities over the past couple of years with Boro enjoying much the better of things.
This is Boro’s third game under the stewardship of Tony Pulis. He’s so far seen his new side lose at home to Villa but win at Preston and he’ll perhaps be grateful for this game as it gives him another chance to look at his squad without the pressure of league points being at stake.
Both sides have bigger priorities this term than the FA Cup with promotion on the minds of Boro and Championship survival the only thing that is really on the agenda for Chris Coleman’s Sunderland.
It was a mixed festive period for the Wearsiders with a 1-0 win at Forest followed up by a bitterly disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Barnsley which has resulted in them falling right back to the bottom of the table.
Click pic for the stats and odds
This is a game that looks like it’s unlikely to produce many goals. Sunderland have been much better organised defensively under Coleman. They’d not kept a clean sheet all season until he arrived but have managed 4 in their last 8 games. However they’ve not been quite as potent at the other end with an injury to top scorer Lewis Grabban the latest setback.
Both teams have scored in only 2 of Sunderlands last 8 matches.
At the Riverside, they will do well to get much change out of a tight Middlesbrough defence. Boro have managed to keep a clean sheet in 4 of their last 6 home fixtures and both teams have scored in none of the last 7 games played on Teesside.
One of those matches was a 1-0 Boro win over Sunderland in the league and as derby matches often are, there could be another cagey contest here.
In terms of the result, you have to fancy Boro to edge it. They have players hungry to impress their new boss and overall you have to say they have considerably more quality than Sunderland.
Boro also have some decent squad players who could come in so rotation is unlikely to knock them off their stride as much.
Middlesbrough have won their last 4 derbies against Sunderland. 3 of those were 1-0 successes including a meeting at the Riverside earlier this season. The Black Cats did win the last FA Cup meeting though, winning a replay 2-1 on Teesside in 2012.
Boro have won 4 of their last 6 home games to nil.
7 of their 8 home victories this season have been to nil.
None of Sunderland’s last 4 away games have seen both teams score.